The Art of Darkness

Treasure Hunt Party

March 21st, 2011 by Cobwebs

I thought that I had a tendency to overdo party planning, but Matthew Baldwin of Defective Yeti blows me away. After reading an article about MIT’s annual Mystery Hunt he decided to do something similar for his birthday. The first one was such a hit that he’s done several others, and three of them are detailed at his site.

His guests gather on the University of Washington campus and follow clues on an extended scavenger hunt. Some of them are pretty elaborate, and definitely took some time to plan and execute.

The one for 2000 was inspired by Alice in Wonderland:

Clue One, “Down the Rabbit Hole”: On my signal, teams were allowed to open their envelopes, which contained two items. The first was a sheet of paper that had a map of the campus on one side, and the text of the first clue on the other. The Map showed all the buildings on the campus, a few of which had dots on them and a corresponding letter (see the map here). As explained prior to the Hunt, only the indicated buildings would have clues hidden in or around them. This was designed so that Teams wouldn’t have to search through scores of building names to find the one a given clue referred to. The clue itself (see the clue here) contained some text from Wonderland, and the message “Find the White Rabbit.” Below that was the warning “Note: don’t let this clue Bug you or otherwise drive you crazy.”

The other item in the envelope was a copy of “The Little Nickel”, a local classifieds-only newspaper. Teams that looked for the White Rabbit – found in the Auto section, under Volkswagons – found an ad that read “WHITE RABBIT: In good condition, but runs a little late. Comes with ears, whiskers, pocket watch. The next clue is in the eastern entryway to Bagley Hall.”

2001 was based around 2001: A Space Odyssey (natch), and 2003 was a tribute to The Wizard of Oz.

I think this is brilliant. A simplified version would be a really unique kids’ party, and I would love to do one for an adult Halloween party. I can think of several themes off the top of my head, such as one based on Dracula with clues related to characters in the novel, or a sci-fi one built around cheesy B movies.

The idea could also be modified for an indoor venue if the weather might not cooperate: A mall or museum might work nicely, although you’d probably have to figure out some method of providing clues that a) wouldn’t be found by non-players and b) wouldn’t annoy management.

This would certainly involve more work than a “standard” party, but the payoff might be worth it. I’m definitely going to have to think about this the next time I’m in a party-planning mood.

Posted in Resources | 1 Comment »